The lights on the Christmas tree are twinkling in the corner of the room, the smell of the biggest roast dinner you will eat this year is floating under your nose and filling the house. You’re holding your first glass of wine for the day and moving towards one of those tiny tables designed specifically for remote controls and small bowls of nuts and crisps. You grab a handful of dry roasted peanuts decanted from the 1kg tub your mum bought from Sainsbury’s and then you hear it. The clunk clunk clunk on the new laminate flooring, you turn, peanuts still in your hand, coating your fingers with that brown salted dust that seems to declare your nut has been dry roasted, your gaze moves towards the door and you see her. It’s Grandma, slowly making her way towards you, her stick parting family members and random people your mum invited for lunch like Moses parting the red sea. Under a cloud of white hair there’s a glint in her eye, she’s coming for you, you look around the room desperate to find a way out but the patio door has been blocked by the extra chairs your dad put out this morning. The smell of talcum powder catches your nose and you realise there’s no chance of escape. You throw the nuts into your mouth and take a large swig of white wine. “Hello dear!” she greets you innocently, pulling you down in an awkward hunched squat so she can plant a soggy wet kiss on your cheek.
“Hello Grandma, how are you?” You yell.
“Oh not too bad. I am very worried though.”
“Why, what’s wrong?”
“Well, I’m worried about you.” She pauses, “when are you going to have a baby?”
Rather than closing your eyes and hoping for the best, now’s the time for you to create a game plan, an exit strategy, a pre-planned answer to help get you through any potentially uncomfortable Christmas scenarios
If you’re entering into this festive period with a story you’d rather forget than share over a mince pie with your Auntie Margaret then now is probably a good time to stop, sit down and talk with your partner or friend about the potential awkward scenarios awaiting you this Christmas and how you’re going to deal with them. From people telling you your biological clock is ticking, being surrounded by super successful and fertile old school friends or being told you look pregnant when you’re not, Christmas can be full of unwelcome surprises. But rather than closing your eyes and hoping for the best, now’s the time for you to create a game plan, an exit strategy, a pre-planned answer to help get you through any potentially uncomfortable Christmas scenarios. But don’t worry, to help get you started we’ve listed a few of these classic awkward Christmas moments with some suggestions of how to handle them.
1. ‘Why aren’t you pregnant yet?’
Generally this question is asked by an older relative as they embrace the freedom bestowed upon them by age to finally say what they think without any repercussions. Whilst Grandma’s frank honesty can be funny when they tell your brother his long hair makes him look like a girl, when the spotlight is turned on you and the waste of your childbearing years, Grandma is no longer a sweet old lady but a mirror telling you truths you’d rather not be reminded of whilst pulling a cracker.
HOW TO HANDLE:
A) Find a baby and give it to her (don’t steal one, but there’s bound to be one in the room so use it as a distraction).
B) Say; ’Sometimes having a baby isn’t as easy as you think’ – this will likely confuse her as they didn’t used talk about stuff like that in her day, but you could run the risk of her talking about sex. However, this will at least be funnier than the conversation you’re having right now.
C) Mumble something like, ‘well, we’ll see, maybe this year….’ She’s unlikely to get the hint and will probably keep asking until the Queen’s speech is on the telly.
D) Shout loudly; ‘you need to have sex to have a baby and we haven’t done it in years!’
2. Baby Talk
You’re stood in a circle of cousins holding a drink and trying to balance a tiny plate of beige food whilst listening to them talk about how tired they are because their babies aren’t sleeping. You haven’t said anything for 10 minutes and you’re just looking at your sausage roll because you’ve no idea how to eat it as the other hand has a glass of wine in it and you definitely don’t want to let go of that right now.
HOW TO HANDLE:
A) Tell them how you know what it’s like because when you got your dog she cried through the night too.
B) Declare ‘I can’t really contribute to this conversation because I don’t have kids’ and just see what happens.
C) Change the conversation with topical questions like – What’s with Donald Trump’s tiny hands? Or, which celebrity do you think will be revealed as the next sex monster? You know, just casual chit chat.
D) Pretend you hear Grandma calling you from across the room and run away.
Catching up with old friends can be great but then there are those times when you’re surrounded by a bunch of people you realise you no longer have anything in common with and you’re having a conversation that sounds like a mix between an episode of Escape to the Country and One Born Every Minute. Somehow everyone in the room is a grown up and you’re left standing next to a friend who’s so shiny, they make you look like you pulled your clothes from a skip and then got dragged through a field on your way to meet them. That’s all before they ask you the dreaded question; ‘so what’s new with you?’
HOW TO HANDLE:
A) Smile and tell them everything’s great and you’re just so happy right now.
B) Tell them it’s been a tough year. If they’re uncomfortable with struggle, they’ll change the subject, but it could also lead to a really great conversation.
C) Lie – you got a massive promotion and you’re currently working undercover hence the outfit and at weekends you go scuba diving in the Caribbean.
D) Send your Grandma instead of you.
4. Hold the baby!
Similar to the fear experienced when you see a relative approaching, salivating at the opportunity to talk about family planning, those moments when a baby is shoved into your face for you to hold can be equally scary. Now you might love holding any baby you can get your hands on, but baby holding can be a real trigger for some people, there’s also that fear that when you are holding the baby everyone will suddenly start telling you how much it suits you, like it’s the newest fashion accessory or prophesying that ‘you’ll be next!’
HOW TO HANDLE:
A) Tell them you’re allergic to babies, you’ll come out in a rash and everything.
B) Firmly say ‘no, I’m okay.’ If they insist, say ‘no’ again and pick up the wine.
C) Tell them the story about how you dropped the turkey this morning.
D) Pretend it’s yours and give it to Grandma.
5. The Peter Pan effect
When you don’t have kids you can become stuck between childhood and adulthood. Travelling the length of the country to visit family because you’re not yet deemed responsible enough to host Christmas at your own home and sleeping on a camp bed with your legs hanging off the end because the spare rooms are filled with broods of children. It’s not that you don’t enjoy visiting family and catching up it’s just that when you’re the only family member without kids, you can find yourself stuck in a time warp, sat on a plastic IKEA footstool at the kids table.
HOW TO HANDLE:
A) Continue to spend half of Christmas on a motorway.
B) Declare yourself responsible enough to host Christmas and see what happens.
C) Embrace it, ask your mum to wash your clothes and declare you’re only going to eat yellow food cut into tiny pieces.
D) Take Grandma hostage until your demands of an adult-sized bed and a seat at the grown ups table are met.
Christmas can create the opportunity for great conversations.
Joking aside, Christmas isn’t easy when life doesn’t look like you hoped it would. It’s hard returning home without good news, struggling not to compare yourself with peers and siblings whose lives seem to be moving forward when yours feels like it’s stuck. But Christmas can create the opportunity for great conversations. When you’re asked how your year has been maybe try to make yourself a tiny bit vulnerable by saying ‘actually, it’s been a difficult year’, if people are uncomfortable with struggle they’ll quickly leave or share a cliche and change the subject, but if they know the language of suffering it’s likely they’ll stay with you and those surprising conversations with aunts, next door neighbours or old school friends can be deeply significant.
Alternatively just send a link to this blog post to all your friends and family before Christmas and make sure you print out a copy in a large font for Grandma.